Quick Bytes – THERESA MAY TACKLES FOOD WASTAGE

I don’t know whether you have noticed – but, in the middle of the political crisis in Britain about Brexit, the Daily Mail’s lead story was dedicated to the fact that Theresa May is championing reducing food waste and thought it was perfectly fine to scrape the mould off a jar of jam and eat what is underneath.

Admittedly, when questioned further, she admitted that it was most probably a case for the individual, but I don’t think I’d want her running my kitchen – let alone my country.

(The Daily Mail also noted that most jam sold in Britain originated in either France or Germany. So, after Brexit, jam should maybe play no role in her breakfast anyway?)

I also liked opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s comments. As a lover of both making and consuming jam, he noted: “I never personally get around to scraping off mould, as my delicious efforts never last that long.”

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?

I read an article in the paper just the other day concerning the manners associated with hosting a lunch or dinner party at home. I was interested – not because I host many, if any parties at home, except for Xmas lunch, which is always a big affair and I even actually cook – but that’s another story!

No, the reason I was interested was because I was brought up in an era when good manners were the norm and there were unwritten hard and fast rules concerning everything from a thank you or condolence letter to the etiquette of a dinner invite.

But, back to the article entitled ‘How to be a good dinner guest’, the first point which I thought was pretty obvious – the need to arrive. Pretty obvious, but Mr Good Manners (me) was amazed to discover that people actually accept your invite and then just bloody don’t turn up! (Maybe take a leaf out of posh restaurant playbooks and start taking credit card details? Now, there’s a thought!)

Next – 15 minutes late is fashionably late and is acceptable, but no more (or less – I had a friend who was always at least an hour early, which throws things right out, as you tend to feel you have to look after them – serve them drinks, tidbits, etc., etc.)

Bring something – always! But, put a little thought into it. A small bunch of flowers is always good, but not a big arrangement that has the host scrabbling to find a vase/bucket big enough to hold them. Wine is fine, as long as the host is not a wine buff with an extensive cellar, who has already planned out the drinks for the night. I once took a bottle of not too shabby champagne to a leading restaurateur’s house. He didn’t know what to do, as the Dom Perignon was already open. Fortunately, we both saw the humour in it and just drank it later. Nice chocolates are good too, but not too many and not just a block of Dairy Milk from the local Woolies. And, something homemade is also always good.

Offer to help clean the table, etc., but don’t be too insistent or bossy about it and don’t ever bloody offer to clean up at the end of the night. Either drink along with the host or buggar off, as the case may be. And, if you are helping to clear, don’t then stand in the kitchen in everyone’s way discussing Johnny’s latest success at school or your thoughts on the current Prime Minister’s efforts.

And, to finish off, a few absolute set in concrete rules:

  1. Turn your blasted phone off.
  2. Don’t you dare ever ever take photos of the food.
  3. An old rule – don’t talk about politics, religion or even footy.
  4. Always complement your host on the food – whether it’s delicious or not:
    “I didn’t complain about the steak. I just asked what happened to the horse that used to be tethered out the front.”
  5. I’ve never had a problem with this as a host. I just tell people to p… off. But, if the host is not quite as forthright as me, read the signs – the look at their partner, the yawns, the “don’t you have to be up early”, etc., etc.
  6. And, last but not least, next day either a note, phone call or email thanking them for the day/night.

Follow these rules and you may even be invited again – or not, if you went on about that blasted footy team.

 

CHICKEN, BACON & MUSHROOM POT PIE

Preheat oven to 180°C

Cube 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 cm cubes).

Heat a little vegie oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot and sauté ½ large chopped onion with 8 sliced button mushrooms and 3 sliced bacon rashers over a low heat until tender. Add a good dollop of butter and, when melted, add 3 tbsp plain flour and mix in well. Cook, stirring for a few minutes, and then add 2 cups chicken stock (packet is fine) and a good slurp of cream. Cook until thick, check seasoning and add the chicken. Cook for 5 mins and then transfer to a large pie dish (or individual ones – china not metal.)

Cut bought puff pastry sheets into shapes a little large than the bowl. Beat 1 egg with ¼ cup milk and paint around outside the top of the dish. Place the pastry on top, pressing firmly around the outside of the dish. Then paint all over with the egg wash and bake until risen and golden brown.

Serve with cooked buttered cabbage.

Move over Gordon f…ing Ramsay and Jamie Boy, a true English super chef arrives in Oz (and I bet you he doesn’t have any problems keeping his doors open!)

I’m enjoying the new Fairfax Good Food sections and, in particular, was very interested in an interview with English chef, Alastair Little, which revealed that he is to take over the late Jeremy Strode’s CBD Restaurant in Sydney. Excited because, to my mind, Little was the star of those heady days in London (the eighties) when ‘young Turks’ such as him, Simon Hopkinson, Rowley Leith and Marco-Pierre White showed the world that English boys could actually cook. Although, the early days from this self-taught cook were not all beer and skittles.

“My cooking career was launched at the Old Compton Wine Bar. ‘Launched’ is perhaps the wrong word – kick-started is more like it, in that the Chef left and I volunteered to have a go. The very next day I was cooking 80 lunches armed with a copy of Elizabeth David’s ‘Provincial Cooking’ and a self-confidence that can only be viewed as foolhardy. My first ever review followed soon after. The Times Diary made several pleasant comments about the wines, the quality of the breads and cheese, but observed that ‘the only cooking he noticed was by a young man who was preparing lamb chops by the simple expedient of setting fire to them on the grill.”

Fortunately, by the time I came across Chef Little, he had honed his skills a little and was heading the kitchens at L’Escargot in Soho, which was owned at the time by wine guru Jancis Robinson and her husband, Nic Lander. Interestingly, also ensconced in the kitchen was one of our most talented produce-driven chefs, George Biron of Sunnybrae at Birregurra fame (now Brae). The food was marvellous – simple and fresh, yet highly skilled cooking.

After a stint at the highly rated and influential 192 Kensington Park Road, Little returned to Soho and opened his own eponymous restaurant in Firth Street.

I ate there a number of times (my brother Don owned wine bars nearby) and it was actually those visits that encouraged me to return to Melbourne and open a 40-seater – Fleurie – following the Little (and, dare I say it, Biron) principle of ‘keeping it simple’. In fact, I think it was a wonderful Tortino of crisp potato topped with the most perfectly cooked, spotlessly fresh anchovies and a scattering of what the Italians would most probably call ‘poor man’s Parmesan’ that tipped me over the edge. Sadly, I could never find, at that time, anchovies of the quality that would make such a recipe proud, so my dream dish never made it onto the Fleurie Carte. But, hopefully, Mr Little has more luck and the dish will feature in Sydney – I will certainly be keeping my fingers crossed. But, no matter what, I will be looking forward to more inspired cooking from the master.

PS.
Alastair Little and I, seemingly, have another thing in common – we both taught ourselves to cook (or at least to appreciate great produce) with the help of Elizabeth David and, in particular, her book “French Provincial Cooking”, pub. 1960. I will always remember, at a time when commercial tomatoes were pale and insipid, her tale of the joys of eating just-picked tomatoes with good bread and the best butter from Normandie. Little was obviously also impressed, because he talks of presenting an entree of a great tomato with mozzarella and the best olive oil, and gobsmacking the locals who had been brought up on Italian restaurant fodder of salads dressed with the oil from the chip fryer.

PPS.
I also noticed that his new restaurant will feature freshly shucked oysters with tiny spicy sausages. A wonderful flavour combination – the salty brine of the oysters and the hot spicy sausage. This recipe also featured on Jeremy’s menu, as it did on a number of my restaurant menus.  Although, I must admit, I didn’t pinch the idea from Little, but instead first encountered the dish in Bordeaux (circa 1970), where it was always washed down with a glass of crisp, flinty Muscadet – yummy!

And, there’s more … for plenty of new recipes, log onto my YouTube channel – Huey’s Fabulous Fast Food For One (or Two) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmvDLNrITNG0Gyhpz6350FA